Saturday 6 February 2016

January Recap

Having seen some awesome January recaps - I particularly liked Debbie's and Caitlin's - I thought I'd do my own, to share some of the brilliant things I did last month!


I got a Cineworld Unlimited card at the start of the month - finally tempted away from the Curzon! While I loved being a member of the Curzon for the last 2 years and have seen so many amazing films there, the chance to see films with friends more often (Debbie, Stacey and Faye also have Cineworld unlimited) persuaded me to make the switch and I definitely haven't regretted it; there have been some great films already with some fabulous friends.

Highlights - despite having never seen any of the Rocky films, I went to see Creed and really enjoyed it. It's a brilliant underdog story, and while Stallone is excellent, I'm stunned that Michael B Jordan's incredible central performance wasn't recognised with an Oscar nomination. I also thought Tessa Thompson was superb and loved the chemistry between her and Jordan.

As a big fan of Michael Lewis, who does a great job of making books about the financial world engaging and accessible, I was keen to see The Big Short (even though I haven't read this particular book). I thought that Adam McKay and Charles Randolph's script, and McKay's direction, did a brilliant job of making the subject of the 2007-8 financial crash easy to follow. Lots of outstanding performances here, with Steve Carell perhaps the pick of them. It manages to be funny while also (justifiably) incredibly angry about the way ordinary people have been completely screwed over.

I read The 5th Wave when it was first released, reviewing for The Bookbag but never got around to the sequels despite enjoying it. I was intrigued to see the adaptation and jumped at the chance to go with Stacey. This was really enjoyable; Chloe Grace Moretz is excellent as Cassie and I thought the screenwriters did a great job of converting it to film. In particular, the most important revelations were brilliantly done. The pacing could be improved slightly, admittedly, although that was an issue I had with the book as well. The theme of survival in the immediate aftermath of an alien invasion sets it apart from dystopian releases like The Hunger Games and Divergent and I'd be interested to see the sequel.

Film of the month for me though was Room, which I saw with Debbie and Stacey. I've never read the book and had managed to avoid spoilers, which I think really added to my enjoyment of this one so will try and avoid saying anything specific about it - however there's an exceptional central performance from the wonderful Brie Larson, it contains perhaps the tensest scene I can remember seeing in the cinema for ages, and I thought this was outstanding overall. Of the Best Picture nominees I've seen (5 out of 8 so far), this would have my vote.

I was less impressed by Youth (but it has a great soundtrack), Joy (superb Jennifer Lawrence performance but terribly paced) and The Danish Girl (well-acted but problematic in many ways.)


(Side note: I wrote a few days ago about sites, and an app, that I use to get cheap tickets, which is the main reason I was able to see six things this month!)

Oh wow, what an AMAZING month for stage shows! I saw two of my favourite actors live, with Adrian Lester outstanding in Red Velvet, which I got a cheap ticket to last minute, and Ralph Fiennes wonderful in the title role of The Master Builder, which I saw with my sister, her boyfriend, Faye, Debbie, Caitlin and our new friend Lili, who's just moved to London for a few months. I wasn't sure about seeing an Ibsen play because I didn't know how easy it would be to follow, but I'm so glad I grabbed tickets after Caitlin suggested it. It was much easier to follow than I'd feared, surprisingly funny early on, and built to a stunning (if admittedly predictable) climax.

I also saw two really fun dance shows - the first #DanceYA of the year saw me, Charlie, Annalie, Sarah and Rachael head to Sadler's Wells for Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty. As ever with Bourne, this was a spectacular show and I loved the set and costumes as well as the choreography and dancing. The second #DanceYA was just last weekend, with me and Debbie going to see Sadler's Wells Sampled, where we saw performances from some of the upcoming shows at Sadler's Wells and the Peacock. Everything here was enjoyable and I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of them in full, but while I was expecting the highlight to be 7 Fingers, who I adore, the combination of Julia Hiriart Urruty and Claudio Gonz├ílez in pieces choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui were the best of the night. I don't think I've seen tango performed live before but am now incredibly excited for their show m¡longa next month!

Shows of the month - I've been trying to select for ages but just can't choose between two completely outstanding productions. I saw In The Heights for the second time in about six weeks, heading to Kings Cross Theatre with Grace. Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical is a gorgeous story with some great songs, while the dancing blew me away. I've already booked to see again in a few weeks time and am hoping to maybe catch it once more before it closes as well! I also saw Guys and Dolls, an old favourite of mine, getting 2nd row stalls seats with Debbie thanks to Last Minute. Jamie Parker - soon to become Harry Potter in The Cursed Child - was brilliant as Sky Masterson, heading a great cast overall. (Siubhan Harrison as Sarah, Sophie Thompson as Adelaide and David Haig as Nathan Detroit round off the central quartet.) Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat was amazing, with an incredible response from the audience - thunderous applause at the gaps in the song as well as at the end - and the choreography from Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright for all of the songs was utterly spellbinding. I think it's also got my favourite book of any musical - Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows did such an outstanding job when they adapted Damon Runyon's stories to form this show! Parker's performance somehow has me even more excited for The Cursed Child, which I didn't think was even possible, also.

Other cool stuff

It was great to catch up with friends at various points after being away for Christmas - it was especially lovely to go out for a meal with most of my book club to celebrate Debbie's birthday, while our actual book club meeting this month was improved hugely by us playing Pictionary instead of Telestrations! I also went to the British Library's Alice in Wonderland exhibition with Caitlin - I'm so bad at keeping track of exhibitions and things that I knew nothing about this until Caitlin asked if anyone was interested! It was a really cool one to go to, though; it was fascinating to see the different editions throughout the years and so many varied adaptations. (It also made me realise that I think I've only ever seen or read adaptations rather than the original, which is definitely going on my TBR list for Stacey's 2016 Classics Challenge!)

For bookish events, I saw Juno Dawson and Dr Olivia Hewitt talk about Mind Your Head - the very first event ever at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road! With the wonderful Jo Elvin chairing, it was an interesting talk and it was great to see so many people turn out to celebrate this really excellent book. The other Waterstones event I went to was Anna James chairing a dream panel of Holly Smale, Holly Bourne, and CJ Daugherty at Waterstones Piccadilly. This was, as you'd expect, awesome, and while I'd love to try and give you the highlights it would probably double the length of this post! Thankfully, over at Maximum Pop, Sophie has it covered! (Huge congrats again, by the way, to Sophie and Grace, who both joined Maximum Pop in January - such brilliant news!)

I also took part in a panel myself! Jon Walter was kind enough to invite me to join in a discussion in Lewes, which he chaired. Along with brilliant authors Jenny McLachlan and Rob Lloyd-Jones, and four teen readers, we discussed social media - whether it's essential to YA/MG authors, what sites are best to use, and a host of other things. It was a very interesting discussion and it was awesome to hear which sites people used. (Big surprises for me were that Tumblr was barely mentioned, Twitter seemed much more popular amongst the teens and their peers than I thought it would be, and several teens were huge fans of Wattpad.)

I also joined my regular quiz team of Tim, Tara and Jen, to win the quiz at the Grapes Limehouse once more, beating Sir Ian McKellen again!

In addition, there will be a books recap over on Teens on Moon Lane later in the week - I read more than I have done for ages, so it's taking a while to write, even focusing on just the very best stuff. However I wanted to draw special attention to my book of the month, Laura Nowlin's This Song Is (Not) For You. I have wanted to see some really well-portrayed asexual representation in YA for a long, long time, and to find it in this book makes me incredibly happy!

So, a busy month! February seems somehow even more packed - I loved The Sleeping Prince launch a few days ago, and have several others coming up! Plus more theatre tickets, three films to see in the next day and a half, and other stuff.

Have you written a January recap post? Link me!

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